"On the Writing of AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE"
by Barb Caffrey
To discuss how I wrote AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE – much less why I wrote it in the first place – I need to discuss the most important person who's ever been in my life: My late husband, Michael B. Caffrey. Because without him, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE – much less the entirety of the Elfyverse – would not exist.
Michael was a much more assured writer than I was when I met him back in 2001, as he'd written two full novels and was working on another one. (I've managed to extract two stories from his first novel, and those stories, "A Dark and Stormy Night" and "On Westmount Station," are available at Amazon as e-books.) Michael also was an accomplished editor, and was probably the best person I could've been around as I started to seriously write fiction.
However, when we married in 2002, the novel I was working on wasn't AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE. I had no idea that I was about to write AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, either, nor that I'd write more than 240,000 words in the space of about thirteen months.
So what happened to jog loose the story of Bruno the Elfy and Sarah, his Human companion and friend? And why did I listen back in September of 2002 when Bruno popped up and said, "Hey, over here! I have a story to tell?"
Back then, Michael and I had just gotten back to San Francisco, California, which had been his home for many years, from a lengthy honeymoon visit with my family. And I'd read an anthology about Elves where the anthologist said something to the effect of, "These Elves aren't your normal Elfie-welfie stuff, either." While the name of that anthology didn't stick, the thought of what, pray tell, "Elfie-welfie stuff" might be apparently did, as it wasn't three hours after I closed the book that Bruno appeared.
When a character appears, fully formed, it's best to listen to what he has to say. But all I knew, when I started writing, were three things: Bruno liked to wear black, when his race, the Elfys, mostly loved bright colors. He was the equivalent of a teenager. And he did not like to rhyme, even if all the other Elfys did.
Even so, that was enough for me to start writing what I then called "The Elfy Story." I wrote the first six parts or so – less than chapters, about a thousand words per part – alone. Michael took a hand when I got to the seventh part because I had some sort of problem I couldn't immediately solve, and he got intrigued. Then he figured this story had legs, and he wanted to help me figure out where it went.
What did he do, exactly? Well, I have an Elfy Lexicon in the Bilre language – Bilre being what the Elfys speak, of course – and I wouldn't have that without Michael's help. He also helped me hash out how the Elfys are governed, and what their society is like. Trade is a must, and whoever Trades with all the other races can be a very wealthy and powerful person, but knowledge, too, is essential – because if you don't know what's likely to be important to each species, how could you possibly relate? (Or Trade, either?)
In figuring all of that out, we decided that the Elfyverse must be a true multiverse, where the various races tend to have worlds (or levels) of their own. And each race is different; for example, I knew from the beginning that Elfys were a type of shorter Elf (no Elfy is taller than four feet, two inches unless he or she is of mixed blood), but didn't have the same set of strengths and weaknesses as the Elfs (never Elves, as if you call them that in the Elfyverse, the Elfs will charcoal you for your presumption). And I knew that we had at least three races involved – Elfs, Elfys, and Humans. But as time went on, I knew the Dwarves were present (as they built air-cars), as were the Trolls, and maybe even the Ogres . . .
Still, world building aside, why should anyone care about Bruno just because he's an Elfy and from a magical society? You'd think that someone who has magic, and a lot of it, would be too hard to root for, right?
Not in Bruno's case. He's an orphan, a ward of the state, and because of a past traumatic brain injury, he doesn't remember everything he should. Further, most of what he's been told about himself is wrong. Worse yet, the Elfy High Council is so afraid of Bruno's potential magical power that they've intentionally mistrained him before sending him off to the Human Realm (our Earth), intending to maroon him there forever.
Despite all this, Bruno never completely loses his sense of humor, which appealed to me. He refuses to give up – it's just not in him – and that, too, appealed to me. So I kept writing . . . and my husband kept editing.
As I wrote, I learned that Bruno had landed in a house that was haunted. And where he mostly couldn't do magic. And where he only had one friend: the strange Human girl Sarah, who he had to make common cause with due to her loathsome parents (as one of my friends put it, "Sarah's parents are straight out of reality TV"). They're in a bad situation, but it quickly gets worse when Bruno's mentor Roberto tries to rescue them, but instead ends up getting captured himself by Sarah's terrible parents. Who are themselves in thrall to a Dark Elf, who's up to no good . . . and then, of course, they fall in love, and everything gets better in a weird way because that's what love does, despite everything else going to the Hells in a handbasket.
With all of that going on, Bruno and Sarah realize they have to gather allies. But how can they? Bruno's new to the whole Human Realm (our Earth), while Sarah's been told her whole life that she's unimportant and way too young to be bothered with. And they need both Elfy and Human allies, which isn't going to be easy . . .
But somehow, some way, they will do it – or die trying.
With this huge, complex plot, I could've easily gotten lost. Fortunately for me, Michael was there every step of the way. He told me when I'd get frustrated, "Don't worry. The story will come." Or he'd tell me jokes in a similar way Bruno tries to do with Sarah from time to time in AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE (where do you think I got that from, hm?). Or he'd help me draw diagrams when I tried to figure out why the Elfy High Council did anything at all . . . plus, he edited what I wrote, gave me excellent advice, and re-wrote nearly all of Dennis the Dark Elf's dialogue to make it even nastier and more hissable.
What more could anyone ever ask from her spouse than that?
So, in closing, if you enjoyed any part of AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, please remember my husband Michael. Without his presence in my life – without his understanding, patience, and love – this novel would not exist. Because I'd not have known enough about love to write it.